Korean HR commission rules against women-only library

February 7th, 2012 · Legal news, Women in Korea · 0 comments

Original article in Korean is at this link.

The National Human Rights Commission has issued its opinion that operating a municipal library for women only, which men are not allowed to use, constitutes gender discrimination and must be eliminated.

The NHRC today issued a judgment that the operation by a civic group of a women-only public library violates men’s rights to equality and constitutes discrimination, and advised the library to cease excluding men.

29-year-old office worker Mr. A brought his petition to the NHRC in June of 2011, arguing that “library B is operated as a women-only library and excludes men, which is discriminatory.”

Library B responded that “the library was founded by a donor who contribute the land in order to build a library for women, and also operates four other locations in the city which men can use… Also, in a women-only library the bathrooms, reading rooms, stairs, and maternal facilities are made especially for women, so it would not be alright for men to be able to use them.”

However, the NHRC determined that the site of the women-only library was donated to be a public library and open to all, and that during the process of its establishment a condition of the donation became that it include a small women-only library. Also, the NHRC found, the maternal facilities could be used by men or women, the reading rooms have no need to be divided by sex, and the addition of men’s restrooms would require little investment, so there is no justification for discrimination.

The library retorted that because its patrons constitute 15% of all library patrons in the city and the volume of use it sees during its long hours makes it more difficult to run than other libraries in the city, so it believes it is appropriate to place more restrictions on men than women.

The NHRC explained that the case is similar to that of women-only parking spots. An official with the NHRC said that “in the case of women-only parking spots, they are forbidden because they increase along with the number of spaces that men can use.”

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